Thursday, May 16, 2019

Because Klingons Don’t Take Prisoners

I’m sorry Beto O’Rourke lost his bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) last year, but you have to admit that having the guy who thought “Green Eggs and Ham” was a life-lesson about shutting down the government is at least entertaining to have in office.

His latest campaign is to brace us against attacks from “space pirates.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said this week that it was important to fund President Trump‘s proposed “Space Force” in order to prevent possible space pirates.

“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” Cruz, the chairman of the subcommittee on aviation and space, said at a hearing Tuesday.

“Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration,” Cruz said.

The Trump administration’s current plan to create Space Force would cost more than $2 billion to get off the ground, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The report found that a Space Force military branch would need 5,400 to 7,800 in new personnel for overhead and management, adding more than $1 billion to the Pentagon’s annual costs.

Trump proposed creating Space Force within the Air Force, similar to how the Marine Corps operates with the Navy. The Pentagon, however, has said Space Force should exist as its own branch of the military, arguing its necessity is inevitable as China and Russia sharpen their focus on space.

A defense spending bill would give $15 million to study the implementation of Space Force but would not go towards creating it as a branch of the military.

Only Congress can create a new military branch, but Trump has signed off on the set-up of the U.S. Space Command. Lawmakers have demonstrated skepticism over the administration’s Space Force plans, questioning the specifics of the Trump proposal and the need for a new service at all.

Now I know Sen. Ted is worried about the Chinese or other earthbound rivals coming up with ways to disable our satellites and take out our military surveillance techniques (not to mention steal from Direct TV).  But when he came out railing about “space pirates,” I and a lot of other people were going for arming against the Klingons who once forged an alliance with the Romulans to defeat Starfleet and take over the United Federation of Planets.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Neil Simon – 1927-2018

Some playwrights told the truth through tragedy, some through pathos, some through their family portrayals on the stage. Neil Simon did all of that with the sharpness and wit of comedy that got made it even more everlasting. And while we may remember the quips, the one-liners, and the scalpel-like humor, it was always to show us our humanity and human-ness. It was pure genius, and generations from now, when playwrights who seemed so much more important have faded from memory, Neil Simon will still be the one who made us laugh so we could truly see ourselves. What more could you want?

He was the Inge Festival honoree in 1997.  He came to Independence and acknowledged the small-town Midwestern place with his typical humor: “Where can I get good bagels and lox?”  He had breakfast at one of the little storefront restaurants and quipped about writing a new play. “Apple Tree Suite,” for the motel where he stayed during the festival.  He was gracious, charming, and made us laugh at every turn.  And when I think of writers that had an impact on both my writing and my outlook on life, he’s right up there with Lanford Wilson, Robert Anderson, William Inge, and John Steinbeck.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

That Morning

Fifty years ago today — June 5, 1968 — I woke up early in my dorm room in Auchincloss Hall at St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island. It was the last week of my freshman — and only — year at the school, and we were in the middle of final exams. I had gone to sleep the night before, after cramming for my Old Testament exam, listening to WBZ Radio out of Boston which had been reporting the early results of that day’s primary election in California. Bobby Kennedy was favored to win, but the final results hadn’t come in by the time I had to obey the prefect’s order for Lights Out and turn off the radio.

I was only fifteen but I was already getting interested in politics, especially since President Johnson had announced in March that he would not seek and would not accept the nomination of his party for another term as president. Eugene McCarthy, the anti-Vietnam War candidate, had showed surprising strength in the New Hampshire primary, and with the entrance of Bobby Kennedy into the race in March, it looked like the Democrats were poised to take the party in a whole new direction and put forward a charismatic and dynamic candidate who could beat the Republicans, even if they nominated that old war horse, Richard Nixon. Bobby Kennedy was drawing huge crowds everywhere he went; crowds of all ages, including high school and college kids who were still too young to vote (the voting age wasn’t lowered to 18 until 1971). And I was caught up in it; I read everything I could about him, including the cover story entitled “The Politics of Restoration” in the May 24, 1968 edition of Time, and I put the cover of that issue on my wall like it was a rock concert poster. I saw in Bobby the continuation of the hope and optimism that I remembered from his older brother Jack, the first president I remembered not as some vague and distant old man, but as a person and someone I cared about. I looked forward to Bobby Kennedy sweeping into Chicago in August and capturing the nomination, picking up the torch, and sprinting to victory in November against the dour and scary Republicans. Camelot was going to make a comeback, and the White House would be crawling with Kennedy children once again.

And then I turned on the radio.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was hearing. Instead of the normal news, weather and sports from Boston, I tuned in to hear the morning news announcer stumbling through a wire service report that “the doctors would be holding a press conference on Senator Kennedy’s condition in a few moments,” and then he said, “To recap, Senator Robert Kennedy was shot last night in Los Angeles after winning the California primary against Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy. He’s in critical condition at Good Samaritan Hospital….” I listened for a few more minutes, then knocked on the door of the kid next door, a guy named Jeff. He was still asleep — it was a little before seven and we didn’t have to be to our final until 8:30 — but soon the entire floor was buzzing with the news. When we gathered in the cavernous second-floor study hall to sit for our exam, the chaplain led us in prayer for Bobby, and then we methodically took the exam. Afterwards, we waited for any news, but we all had the sick feeling that we knew what was coming. We had heard it before with John F. Kennedy less than four years before and with Martin Luther King in April.

Three days later, June 8, 1968, was graduation day — they call it Prize Day at St. George’s. That was also the day of Bobby Kennedy’s funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, but I missed it on TV since I was sitting in the stuffy gym watching the senior class pick up their diplomas. After lunch I got on a charter bus to Boston to catch a plane back to Toledo, knowing I would not be returning to St. George’s in the fall, and arriving at home in the dusk of a June night in time to see once again the grainy black-and-white images of yet another Kennedy funeral procession up the hill of Arlington National Cemetery. Night had fallen — the funeral train trip from New York had taken longer than expected — and the procession, including the teenage sons of Bobby and Ethel bearing their father’s coffin, made its way to the grave site under the glare of floodlights. He was buried under a simple white cross near the eternal flame of his brother.

That was the summer that cities burned, the police rioted at the convention in Chicago, the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, and Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie began their campaign to keep the White House in the hands of the Democrats while trying desperately to distance themselves from the Johnson administration; not an easy task since Humphrey was LBJ’s vice president. The Republicans nominated Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in Miami, and George Wallace, the governor of Alabama who stood in school house door and swore to uphold segregation now and forever, launched a third-party run to draw off disaffected conservative blue-collar Democrats, a lesson not lost on Richard Nixon and the GOP when Wallace carried five southern states with ten million votes. I volunteered for the local Democratic campaign office and spent many weekends after I got my driver’s license in September handing out literature to inner city neighborhoods in Toledo. Vote Humphrey-Muskie said the little red, white, and blue stickers, and I tried hard to be as enthusiastic as possible, but I sorely wished they said Vote Kennedy.

We watched the election returns in November, the race too close to call until the next morning. My history teacher wheeled in the big TV on the VTR cart and we watched Walter Cronkite pronounce Richard Nixon as the next President of the United States. Vice President Humphrey conceded gracefully, and I spent the evening scraping the last of the Humphrey-Muskie stickers off the bumper of my mom’s 1967 Ford Country Squire.

*

It’s been fifty years since I felt the same way about a presidential candidate as I did about Bobby Kennedy. Perhaps, like your first love, you can never recapture the intensity, the newness, the thrill of hearing someone express the feelings you feel and you experience a passion that goes beyond yourself; you start to see the world in the third person, and you take it so personally that it becomes a part of you. And when the shock of the loss hits you, it numbs you. The grieving process is excruciating, and you feel as if nothing could ever be the same again. And the next time you know that no matter what the next person says, be they a candidate for president or a lover, you will never forget the first one and you will subconsciously compare them, and the new one will be found lacking. It’s not their fault that I can’t fall for them the same way I fell for the first one. In a way, I wish I could. I admire the passion of the people I see taking up the cause of their candidate, no matter their party, and I am envious of their devotion to the cause. I hope they never lose it, but I also hope they realize that sometimes it can be taken away with a terrible force and brutal reality that leaves a scar that is never truly healed.

In one small way, the spirit and youthful passion of my admiration and support of Bobby Kennedy has never left me. When I first envisioned the character of Bobby Cramer in 1994, I knew where his name came from; he was born in 1961 and his mother adored Bobby Kennedy. I think the same sense of hope that I saw in Bobby Kennedy comes through in the boy in the novel and the play, even if he does believe that hope is his greatest weakness. But I wish that I — and the country — can find that hope again; that we all find that same sense of wonder and purpose to do what we can to make this country and world a better place that I had on that June morning fifty years ago, the moment before I turned on the radio.


Bobby Kennedy
November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968

“Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?'”

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Boob Tube

Via the Independent (UK):

Being US President is one of the most demanding jobs in the world. Donald Trump seems to have already mastered his schedule however. As well as getting up early to watch cable TV shows, he also records them to “obsessively” watch in the evening, it has been reported.

According to Gabriel Sherman, National Affairs Editor at New York Magazine, people close to the White House say Mr Trump has begun watching “a lot” of Fox News recently, after a period of tuning in to CNN. But not wanting to miss anything, the President also has a system that allows him to catch up on the day’s morning shows before bed.

Appearing on Slate magazine’s Trump podcast on Monday, Sherman shared information he had gleaned from his White House contacts with host Jacob Weisberg. “My sources in Trumpworld say that he watches a lot of Fox,” he said. “But the other thing he does, a source close to the White House has told me, is that he DVRs [digitally records] basically all of the cable news.”

Mr Trump’s TV consumption has reportedly been a source of concern to his aides since he became President. But so far his team has failed to have any real influence on what Sherman calls his “obsessive” behaviour. “It’s kind of remarkable really, that someone would actually want to watch cable news on recording,” he says. “Donald Trump apparently does, and when he goes back up to the residence at the end of the day, I’ve been told he spends a lot of time flipping through the cable networks, including CNN, and catching up on the way he’s been covered. This is a man whose validation is cemented by the way the media covers him, so he obsessively monitors his media coverage.”

How pathetically insecure do you have to be to be both President of the United States and still need of approval and validation by a bunch of sycophantic pundits on Fox News?

Okay, Mom, you were right: too much TV can turn your brain to mush.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Out For The Weekend

As alluded to in Friday Catblogging below, this weekend is the 11th annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance where I will mingle with the rich, famous, and strangely-clad.  This is a fun time to see some great antique autos and motorcycles as well as spend quality time with my brother, who has made this a regular reason to come to South Florida and thaw out a little.

Since I am addicted to the keyboard, I will be updating here with some photos of the weekend and hoping to share some of them for you to admire remnants of a time when style and engineering and just plain fun plied highways and byways.  And even though I know this crowd is most assuredly not of the pussy-hat contingency, we can all get along as long as there’s mint in the iced tea and we all agree that the Ford Mustang is a god.  Right?

1966 Ford Mustang GT

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Taking Dictation

David Remnick of The New Yorker reports on Trump’s meeting with media executives this week.

The fantasy of the normalization of Donald Trump—the idea that a demagogic candidate would somehow be transformed into a statesman of poise and deliberation after his Election Day victory—should now be a distant memory, an illusion shattered.

First came the obsessive Twitter rants directed at “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live.” Then came Monday’s astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media, delivered in a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. In the presence of television executives and anchors, Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use “nicer” pictures?

For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage. When he was asked about the sort of “fake news” that now clogs social media, Trump replied that it was the networks that were guilty of spreading fake news. The “worst,” he said, were CNN (“liars!”) and NBC.

This is where we are. The President-elect does not care who knows how unforgiving or vain or distracted he is. This is who he is, and this is who will be running the executive branch of the United States government for four years.

[…]

The participants all shook Trump’s hand at the start of the session and congratulated him, but things went south from there. The attendees included around two dozen anchors and executives from CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, and ABC, including Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Wolf Blitzer, Gayle King, David Muir, and Martha Raddatz. The Trump people did say that they would allow the new President to be followed, as tradition has had it, by a team of pool reporters.

Participants said that Trump did not raise his voice, but that he went on steadily at the start of the meeting about how he had been treated poorly. “It was all so Trump,” one said. “He is like this all the time. He’ll freeze you out and then be nice and humble and sort of want you to like him.”

“But he truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment,” the source continued. “He doesn’t. He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.”

This is how dictators talk, think, and work.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016